Being OK with Me

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I’m OK with myself. Really, I am. The title up there might indicate I don’t like myself very much. Most of the time, I’m OK with me. I see my strengths and weaknesses. I see how I’ve changed and grown over the years. I generally feel contentment about who I am, where I am and what I do.

But.

But, there is also this nagging feeling that I am not enough. I should be more or do more. I should fix something. I should try harder. There is a shadow following me around whispering, “I should. I should. I should.”

I know I’m not alone. I sense you feel it, too. I hear it when you talk about how you’re failing. I see it when you stand on the edge, wondering if you fit.  I know because, well, me too. I lay in my bed wondering what you think of me after our conversation earlier in the day. I cringe when you compare yourself to me, yet turn around and compare myself to you.

I read about it almost weekly on the internet. On a recent day, I came across two such posts. They were published on different days, but I stumbled upon them the same day.

I read these words and shout, “Amen!” Phrases that never come out of my mouth start popping into my head. “Preach it, Sista!” “You go, Girl!” You get the idea. The words of those posts are full of truth. They sooth and encourage, and I embrace them. I’m OK with me. For a few hours. Or maybe even a whole day.

But the shadow catches up to me again. I grasp for the truth, but it slips through my fingers.

My husband is leading a couple groups through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University this fall. At the end of the first DVD session, Dave says, “What would happen to the kingdom of God if the people of God were out of debt? How much of this world could we, as believers, change?”

I wonder the same about women. What could the women of God — the daughters of Christ — do for the kingdom of God if we were all OK with ourselves? How could God use us if I was OK with me and you were OK with you?

I want to recognize areas for growth and change in my life without a sense of shame.

I want to celebrate your gifts and successes without feeling like I’m not enough.

I want to lay in my bed praying for you, not worrying about what I said to you earlier in the day.

I want to compare my “right now” to my “used to be” and not some unrealistic idea of perfection.

You, too? Let’s wrestle with this for 31 days.*

*I originally intended to participate in the 31 Days series, but I was unable to complete the series in 31 days. It is an on-going series here. Thank you for grace as I work to complete it.

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31 Days: Being OK with Me

Being OK with Me.

I linked up at The Nesting Place for the annual 31 Days series. I attempted two 31 Days series, which was a very unrealistic goal. I’ve turned this into an on-going series I will contribute to for several months. Thank you for your grace.

Being OK with Me. (The introduction.)

A Disclaimer

Scrubbing the Deck

A Quote

A Theme Song

Being OK in this Culture

Enough.

I’ve been meaning to write about my word for the year. The year is slipping by. Spring and winter have been doing a two steps forward, three steps back dance in my yard. Spring will soon win — I hope!

In past years, my word has come easily. This time, it has been a challenge to figure out the word that correctly conveys my heart for this year. One of my goals has been to declutter our house. I’m making progress on that front, although it seems to go like the spring and winter dance. I have some areas in my life I’d like to declutter, too. But the word “declutter” just wasn’t quite right. I avoided reading about other people’s words for the year so as to not influence my choice.

I was trying a word on for size one day, wondering if it might fit, when a song came on the radio. It was the same song that convinced me to pick the word Grace a few years back.

“Why are you striving these days? Why are you trying to earn grace?” –Tenth Avenue North, By Your Side

Another part of the song starts like this,

“Why are you looking for love? Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?”

Enough. That is my word.

Is God alone enough? Dare I ask that question and risk a Job-type story happening in my life?

Am I enough? If I never grow or change am I content with being me?

In my best mom voice, “Enough!” Enough stuff. Enough negative thinking. Enough putting off what needs to be done.

And enough procrastinating this post.

2013: The Year of Enough.

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Day 7: For When You Forget

The challenge of writing a series about changing one habit is that I’m actually changing TWO habits, because I am not in the habit of writing on a regular basis. (Hence the “random reporter” web address.) So, yesterday I completely forgot to write a post! I thought of it in the afternoon, but I was avoiding the internet all day, so I put it on a list of things to do when I logged on. Then, I never looked at my list.

So, in short, when you forget about changing your habit, you really are right on track. How so? Well, you are still in the process of changing. It’s a process that includes snags, mistakes and forgetfulness.

Did you start to change a habit and then completely space it off? Good for you! You’re on the right track to figure out why you forgot and do better next time.

Dear Me

Last year, I read Emily Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl and found it to be written just for me. She has a new book out called Graceful, and it’s the same message as her previous book directed at teenage girls. I’m pretty sure I could have used that book as a teen! In honor of the new book, Emily invited people to write a letter to their teenage self and link it up to her blog. It was a fun little assignment, you might want to do it yourself. Mine is below.

Dear 17-year-old me,

I’ve lived twice as long as you now, can you believe it? You played house for so many years and dreamed of being a grown up, and now you are one. It’s been a good life, and I’ve learned a few things that you might find helpful. So, as you venture into your senior year of high school, here are some things you should know:

Stop being so scared to try new foods. Specifically, can you figure out how to like lettuce and other green leafy things? It might be OK as a teenager to eat only two croutons and the cherry tomato half on every salad automatically given to you at a banquet or reception, but ordering everything sans lettuce as a 35-year-old is a little embarrassing. Yes, your husband (Really! You DO get one! More on him later.) also dislikes lettuce, making you true soul mates, but you are both trying to eat healthier these days, and tolerating lettuce would really be a bonus in that department.

You were never really good at getting your hair “big” like the other girls. It’s a fad that’s already going out of style, but don’t fret. It just means many less embarrassing photos later in life. You’re really not much into fads anyway. I mean, you rolled your jeans and wore multiple pairs of brightly colored socks with your white canvas shoes, but you were never the trend setter. Trendy isn’t your thing, and that’s OK, too. Everyone has their own style, even if it’s not evident in high school.

That’s me, second from the left.

For someone who isn’t very good with numbers, you are pretty set on one number: your GPA. Can I tell you a little secret? When you are 35 you will not remember what your GPA was. Gasp! I know. I know. It’s a statistic that gives you worth, proves you are good. You enjoy school and you love to learn, those are wonderful things. But stop letting perfect grades stress you out! That B in choir your freshman year was a gift, I tell you, a gift! Can you imagine your stress level if you had the chance for that perfect 4.0? You are so much more than a number. Just last week your oldest child brought home his/her first school paper with a grade on top. (Sorry for the gender confusion, but you and the hubs are a rare breed who don’t find out the gender of your children before they are born. I don’t want to spoil the surprise!) The child is in third grade, the first year with real letter grades. And that first school paper with a grade on top did a number on your heart. The grade was a good one, there was no disappointment. In fact, this child does very well in school, just like you did. But the truth is, you see beyond the grade, the numbers, the statistics. You see your precious child whom you value for so much more than his/her ability to get good grades. Keep doing well in school and enjoy learning, but stop letting your GPA determine your self worth.

You girls know how to party with your sparkling grape juice and big, baggy shirts!

You also need to know that having a boyfriend does not give you value either. I’m pretty sure you know this one, but it’s still hard to feel like the only one who never had a boyfriend. You aren’t the only one. You have an amazing group of girlfriends (Hey, we’re still friends, can you believe it?) and those friendships are a huge blessing! Enjoy the time you spend together. You have had many experiences in high school, and will have more opportunities in college, that you might have missed out on if there was a guy to distract you. Instead, you have missed out on heartache and who knows what kind of trouble. You will spend most of your college years without a boyfriend either. So, just learn to enjoy meeting new people and stop wondering if every event you attend might be the event where you meet “the one.” All that brain power could be used for more noble causes. Towards the end of your senior year of college you will see a cute guy at your church. And then you will see him several places around campus, wondering why you never saw him before. You will not get the opportunity to meet him at church, and you will sing like Alanis Morrisette that it’s ironic, but do not despair! You know that job giving tours of the dorms to new students where you’ll only make $50?  Totally worth it! You’ll get to work with — yep, you guessed it — cute church boy! And it turns out to be the perfect opportunity for two kinda quiet people to meet and fall in love. So worth the wait!

This letter is getting long, but there is one more thing that you must know: It is OK to make mistakes. You are so desperate to do what’s right and what pleases God. This is a good thing, yet you take it to an extreme. You are constantly wondering if you are doing things good enough, if what you are doing is really God’s will, if there is something you are missing that would make your life more aligned with God. (And you’re developing a rather prideful and judgmental heart, which is definitely not God’s will for your life.) That voice telling you you are not good enough is not God’s voice. I wish I could say that at 35 you’ve stopped listening to that voice, but much like your lettuce preferences, some battles take longer to win. The good news is you start to listen more to the voice of God’s grace. It’s been there all along, you just tune it out in favor of items to put on your “I’m good enough check list.” So, throw that list away, even though it’s not on paper and only in your imagination. Cause that’s just it, it’s an imaginary list. Much like you see your children for being worth more than their grades, God sees you for more than what you do. He appreciates your heart so desperate to follow Him, but He really just wants you to get to know Him and to enjoy His presence in your life. If you start there, the “doing what’s right” will naturally follow.

There is so much more I could tell you — and I know you think you want to know every detail — but the stuff I already told you is a good start. Enjoy the journey!

Love,

Me 🙂

P.S. As a 35-year-old, you’ll wish 70-year-old you would send along a letter. But, then you’ll realize she already has in the form of the women in their 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s and even 30s that say, “Enjoy your kids! They grow up so fast …”

The Baby Jesus

As I pack up Christmas and put it away until next year, I hope it’s only the decorations that disappear. I hope my heart and mind can keep thinking about this baby that changed everything.

Many years I try to push the baby talk away. It’s not about the baby, I try to tell myself, but the fact that God came to be a savior and to die as a man. If we focus on the baby, we’re missing the whole point of the bigger story.

Or so I thought.

This year, I could not escape the baby. How God came as a baby. How it’s such a strange thing. The God of the entire universe put on the flesh of a helpless baby.

We sang Hark the Herald at the Christmas Eve service at our church, and during the third verse I noticed the words:

Mild he lays his glory by …

Our pastor later highlighted those same words as he spoke before we took communion. I chuckled to myself. OK, I’m listening, God. You have my attention.

Really, it’s been a theme for several months. Our small group was going through a marriage study that highlighted these verses:

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

–Philippians 2:3-8

Jesus gave up His rights, His glory, His whole life. I wonder if I will ever understand. I’m an American, you know. We fight for our rights, freedoms and choices. Don’t take away my freedom to choose what I think is right! Yet, that’s exactly what God has done for me. He made a choice. He chose to give up His rights.

As I pack up my Christmas decorations, I need to pack up myself, my rights, my way of seeing the world. I need to remember the baby.

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This post is part of Magnificence Mondays. Do you have something marvelous to share? A story, a picture, or anything that comes to mind. Write a post or comment below! And more importantly, notice and remember.

Accidental Grace

Our library had a summer reading program for adults. It was a contest to read a book and then watch the movie based on that book. One lucky reader would win a date night package of dinner and a movie. My husband first learned about it, and we decided it would be a fun thing to do together.

We went to the library on a Saturday and looked at the available books and movies. We wanted to avoid movies we had already seen and books with too many pages. We settled on The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich. It’s the story of the founding of Facebook.

It’s an interesting book. And we thought the movie, The Social Network, was good.

I was not expecting to find grace.

I know. It’s weird. I couldn’t figure it out, at first. What about this book is filling me with grace?

I realized it had little to do with what was in the book. It was more about what was not in the book. It wasn’t a how to be a better wife, be a better parent, spend your money better or be a better Christian kind of book. It was just a story. A significant story, really, as Facebook has changed our culture. But at the end of the day, it was just a story.

When was the last time I just read and enjoyed a good story?

All of the how-to _______ (fill in the blank) books are good to read, don’t get me wrong. But, if that’s all I read, I tend to start making a mental list of things I’m not doing good enough. Pretty soon a book that was meant to challenge, encourage and inspire has inadvertently unleashed the swirling thoughts of judgement and condemnation. It’s not a place filled with grace.

It has been fun to read The Boxcar Children with my kids and start on The Chronicles of Narnia set I received as a gift last Christmas.

To welcome grace, we first need some breathing space. The mind needs to wander and imagine without the need to solve a problem or make a change.

So, grab a little book and lose yourself in a story. And like a geeky kid at Harvard who became an accidental billionaire, you might just find yourself stumbling upon an unexpected abundance of grace.